Downtown Santa Ana’s long-awaited 4th Street Market opens Monday, Feb. 16. On a walk-through last week, the place looked almost finished, with lots of restaurant owners deep in last-minute planning, laptops and paperwork spread out on stainless steel prep surfaces.
On Monday morning, computers will give way to hot flat tops, burbling deep fryers, and fried egg on top of just about everything. Felix Barron’s KTCHN is a return to O.C. for the Santa Ana native, after success with his first KTCHN in Los Angeles, and will open at 7 a.m. serving breakfast, along with a few other spots including Portola Coffee. Everything will be open at 10, though, including the multiple concepts from Jason Quinn, chef-owner of Playground across the street. In the market, his burger, fried chicken, and Thai noodle concepts are a 1-2-3 punch, and artisan grocery store Honor Roll will carry Playground products and the Dough Exchange baked goods given away for free in the run-up to the market’s opening. The name of Quinn’s quick-serve craft bar? Recess!
Other market musts include two Orange County food truck operators who are opening their first brick-and-mortars: Chunk ‘n’ Chip’s freshly baked cookies get matched up with ice cream before your very eyes, and Dos Chinos, whose Mexi-Viet food is so well-known it’s surprising they haven’t already parked their wheels. Big windows inside the market and on the street afford a view onto the incubator kitchens, rentable spaces giving small or beginning commercial food makers access to the kind of health department certified prep kitchens required for their products. Three certified gluten-free kitchens have completely separate cooling and venting, as does a designated chocolate-making space. Out back, what was an alley is now a patio, with bold graffiti art alternating with sections of living wall.
On-site meat market Electric City Butcher is setting a very high bar for itself, even in the rarified world of whole-beast butchers. Owner-butcher Michael Puglisi plans to custom-cut everything to order—and indeed, I can verify that there’s no glass meat display case in the window-lined shop, just beautiful marble and metal work surfaces and equipment. As a cook, I love this idea so much, and can’t wait to step up to the counter and confer with the butcher. Sausages, of course, are prepared ahead, and Puglisi’s already been supplying Little Sparrow with some.
Did I mention Foodbeast? If not, it’s because I’m a little gobsmacked at the huge get for market management. But I saw the sign on the wall and I know it’s true: The foodosphere’s very biggest dog has relocated its DTSA headquarters to offices inside the market, with a video-ready glass-walled test kitchen that can be sealed off for soundproofing or opened up for demos. I foresee much 4th Street Market-related content in the future of Foodbeast’s millions of users—the significance of which will be seen as the still-new story of O.C.’s food halls continues.